Serenade: A Balanchine Story

Pantheon. Apr. 2022. 320p. ISBN 9780593316399. $30. DANCE
Former ballerina and prolific writer Bentley (Winter Season: A Dancer’s Journal) painstakingly deconstructs Serenade, George Balanchine’s masterpiece and his first American ballet. Bentley writes as she once danced, with grace and elegance, as she captures the haunting beauty of an art form that exists to be seen and experienced. Sprinkled throughout her breakdown of Serenade is an exploration of Balanchine’s life; a look at his New York City Ballet in the 1970s; a history of ballet focusing on France’s Louis XIV, who started the first ballet school; and even brief biographies of composer Tchaikovsky (whose music Serenade is set to) and choreographer Marius Ivanovich Petipa. But Bentley saves her effusive descriptions for the dance, for her very personal experiences in the 10 years she spent with the company (from the mid-1970s to the ’80s), and for the brilliance of Balanchine, who was “primarily, after all, an architect of spirit, wrangling its evanescence to the stage, into our bodies, and then out again in our movement.” Included is a moving story of her visit to his deathbed, when he made “an invisible girl feel visible—one final adjustment.”
VERDICT A touching tribute to a master, this work will delight balletomanes.
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